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How Arista Networks got out in front of the SDN craze

Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal says 'cloud networking leader' complements Cisco

By , Network World
February 22, 2013 11:04 AM ET

Network World - Today, the buzz in networking is all around software-defined networks -- and nothing could make Arista Networks CEO Jayshree Ullal happier. Ullal spent 15 years at Cisco, where she ran the network giant's core switching and data center businesses, before joining Arista, which was founded by Sun Microsystems co-founder and Chief System Architect Andy Bechtolsheim and David Cheriton, a Stanford University professor of computer science and electrical engineering (and fellow Cisco alumnus). Ullal says Arista's data center switches were born to support SDN and provide both the power and flexibility required for today's highly virtualized corporate and cloud data centers. In this installment of the IDG Enterprise CEO Interview Series, Ullal spoke with Chief Content Officer John Gallant about the reality and hype around SDN, and why the data center requires a different network than your father's general-purpose Cisco net. She also explored how her work at Cisco shaped Arista's strategy, and shared insights on how Arista's partnerships with VMware and Cloudera are making it easier to move to cloud and embrace big data, respectively.

Our top five differentiators are all tied to our software."

There are a lot of networking alternatives out there. Why should someone buy from Arista?

Arista saw three disruptions in the market: a hardware disruption; a software disruption; and a customer buying disruption, which in my mind is the most important thing. You can invent all you want on the technology side, but you have to see the customers changing their market position.

The hardware technology disruption was that in the 1990s, the only way to build any kind of high-speed networking was through your own in-house ASICs [application-specific integrated circuits] and specialty chips. That's not true anymore. We have from three to five vendors available, whether it's Intel, Broadcom or others, supplying us much of the silicon. They are sometimes an order of magnitude better in power, footprint, density, latency, and performance and scale. Arista was able to take advantage of that disruption in hardware.

[ TEST: Arista 10G switch is fast, flexible ]

The second is software. We were very inspired by Cisco's software focus on the enterprise side, Juniper's on the service provider side, and we saw that we could build a purpose-built, modern operating system only for the data center and the cloud. We didn't try to do it for general-purpose networking. We really focused on our mission, which is high-performance applications for the data center and cloud. It's called Extensible Operating System (EOS) and there is no networking operating system that is as modern, self-healing and resilient, and [designed for the cloud].

And the third, speaking of that, is the cloud itself. The enterprise market is shifting. Every CIO is being demanded a strategy on what they are doing with the cloud in terms of applications and infrastructure. Whether it's a private cloud, a public cloud or a hybrid cloud, these are becoming an important piece of the strategy. As Amazon innovated on the application side, you can think of Arista as really providing that market disruption on the networking side.

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